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Composting for Beginners

Even if you're new to gardening, odds are you've heard of composting and its benefits for your garden and our planet. Compost is organic material you add to your soil to keep the plants in your garden healthy and thriving. But the benefits don't stop there, we throw away 28% of our food scraps and yard waste, which end up in landfills, releasing methane and taking up space. Help your garden and our planet by eliminating your waste and repurposing it into "gardener's gold."

You may have considered composting, but thought it might be too complicated, worried about any weird smells or just found it a bit messy. While all of these can be true, it shouldn't be something you need to worry about if done correctly. When done the right way, composting can be a very simple process: just add a bit of soil to your organic waste to create the best soil builder around.

Three Ingredients of Compost

When composting there are three types of materials needed, brown, green, and water. The brown ingredients provide carbon to your mixture, while the green ingredients provide nitrogen. The last thing you'll need is water, in order to provide moisture that breaks down the organic matter.

  • Brown: Dead leaves, branches, twigs, etc.

  • Green: Grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps and even coffee grounds.

What To Compost

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Eggshells

  • Coffee grounds and unbleached filters

  • Tea bags

  • Nutshells

  • Shredded newspaper

  • Cardboard

  • Paper

  • Yard trimmings

  • Grass clippings

  • Houseplants

  • Leaves

  • Sawdust or wood chips

  • Cotton and wool rags

  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint

What NOT to Compost

Many of the following items will not work well in your compost pile, some contain substances harmful towards your plants while others can cause odor issues and attract pests.

  • Coal and charcoal ash

  • Dairy products (ex. butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt and eggs)

  • Diseased or insect ridden plants

  • Fat, grease, lard or oils

  • Meat or fish bones and scraps

  • Pet waste (ex. dog or cat feces and soiled cat litter)

  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides

After collecting your food scraps into a composting bin and scraping together any yard waste, the rest is as simple as gathering them into one pile and over the course of 90 days the materials will decompose. When creating your pile, start with three parts brown and one-part green material with a bit of water. Regularly sprinkle water over your pile, but be careful not to over water to prevent microorganisms from drowning.

Since you'll want to make sure your pile stays moist, try leaving it in a shady area or covering it with a tarp. You'll know your compost is fully cooked once it becomes dry, brown and crumbly. At the beginning of each planting season, add 4 to 6 inches of compost to your garden bed to work its magic.

Not only does composting help with reducing the methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint, but it provides your garden with enriched soil that retains moisture and suppresses plant disease and pest. By using your homemade compost you'll reduce your need of chemical fertilizers and encourage productions of beneficial bacteria and fungi that breaks down organic matter to create hummus.

Composting is incredibly easy and environmentally friendly. With a bit of patiences and a few kitchen scraps, provide your garden with a simple treat that will improve your flowerbeds and feed your growing veggies.